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Xbox Review: The Matrix – Path of Neo

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In 2003 Enter the Matrix was released for game consoles and the PC. For the first time in a video game, players could explore the world of The Matrix. The downside was you didn’t get to play as one of the main characters from the film, but rather from the perspective of two supporting characters, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Ghost (Anthony Wong). The events of the game paralleled the events of The Matrix: Reloaded. It added to the overall experience of the Matrix films, but what fans really wanted was the chance to play as Neo (Keanu Reeve). The Wachowski Brothers and Shiny Entertainment (the developer of Enter the Matrix) now give players the chance to walk in Neo’s shoes in The Matrix: Path of Neo.

Path of Neo starts with the first film and works its way through events of the trilogy. Events are expanded a bit: for instance, in the segment where Agents are looking for Neo at his job, the player has to use stealth to nagivate Neo through the building, onto a ledge, and so on to meet up with Trinity (voiced in this game by Jennifer Hale). You eventually meet up with Morpheus and are given the chance to take the blue pill or the red pill. You can take the blue pill, but there’s little point, as the game ends after you do. So, take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Once you’ve taken the red pill, what follows is a lengthy training segment (I think it clocks in at two hours) where players learn how to control Neo, use weapons, and of course learn martial arts. There are many moves and combos that can be learned, and they are easily executed on the Xbox controller.

When your training comes to an end, the game really begins, and you’ll be taken through various missions from the films, albeit in expanded form. Yes, you’ll get to play the lobby level from the first film, and other key moments from the trilogy. The game offers up a RPG-style system where, in between levels, you can spend experience points to learn new moves.

The action is often fast and furious, and players can use guns to knock off enemies or use Neo’s various martial arts moves. Like in the movies, Neo can use “bullet time” to slow down the action and perform advanced moves and combos.

The Wachowski brothers have even written a “new” ending to the trilogy, and I’ll leave that for you to discover.

Graphically, Path of Neo does not push the Xbox to its limits. Textures are a little bland; some environments look great while others look pretty lackluster. Framerates can suffer at times when there is a lot of action on-screen.

Player models look pretty good. Player animation is mostly fluid, but can be jerky at times. The bullet time effects and animations are excellent, especially when you switch into wire-fu mode and bash a bad guy in the head by running up a wall and doing a flip.

The voice acting is also good, and the sound-alike actors do a passable job of voicing Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and the other characters. The illusion works as you’ll watch a scene from the film with, say, Morpheus talking to Neo, and then when you switch back to the game, Morpheus and Neo will sound pretty much the same. It would have been nice for Keeanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Moss to voice their characters. It’s a minor nit.

Shiny Entertainment has tried to address some of the complaints from Enter the Matrix, chief among them camera control. In Path of Neo, camera control is better, and not as intrusive as it was in Enter the Matrix. It’s not perfect, but it works.

Aiming can be frustrating at times. There are moments where you might want to shoot out a fire extinguisher to take out advancing enemies, only to be locked on to an enemy you don’t want to shoot. In fact, shooting at inanimate objects is an exercise in futility at times.

As I mentioned previously, pulling off combos and bullet time moves are easily done. A pull of the left trigger puts bullet time in motion, and while holding the left trigger you can perform the various combos available to Neo at that given time.

Load times are short, although there are moments in the game where you’ll be firing at an agent, only to have a load screen appear briefly before the action resumes.

Path of Neo uses the Havok physics engine, and there are many destructible objects in the game. There’s a lot of satisfaction to bashing an Agent around, knocking him into a wall with plaster raining down.

Path of Neo is a better game than Enter the Matrix. It’s not a great game. It could have been, which is a shame. It’s still good entertainment, especially if you’re a fan of the Matrix films.

The Matrix: Path of Neo is a rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence. This game can also be found on: PC and PS2.

(**** out of *****)

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